In 1996, the people of California enacted Proposition 209, a constitutional amendment that prohibits state government institutions from considering, race, sex, or ethnicity in the areas of public employment, public contracting or public education.
The bill was modeled after the 1964 Civil Rights Act, a landmark piece of civil rights legislation that led to the elimination of state enforced racial segregation in the United States.
Recently, California almost chose a different path. In 2013, Senate Constitution Amendment (SCA 5) was introduced in the California State Senate. The bill language reads as follows:
The California Constitution prohibits the state from discriminating against, or granting preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education, or public contracting.
This measure would… eliminate this prohibition on state discrimination or preference in the operation of public education.
In other words, the state would be allowed to grant preferential treatment based on ethnicity or race in college admissions.
Since SCA 5 is a constitutional amendment, its passage required a two-thirds majority in both houses. SCA 5 passed the Senate on January 30, and was then forwarded to the Assembly for final legislative approval. The amendment was subsequently shelved when three Senators who had previously voted in its favor withdrew their support. For now at least, California’s college admissions will continue to focus on ability, merit and qualifications; not race, gender or ethnicity.
By Calif. State Assemblymember Marie Waldron (R-75th District)